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“Bother”: What a great word.  When used as a noun it means “effort, worry or difficulty.” Interestingly, the origins of the word bother are “noise or chatter.” That’s exactly how I experience bother. Life can be going very well, yet if I feel bothered, a pall is cast over what otherwise might be happy, even joyful, times. The state of bother magnifies small irritants and creates a snowball effect that leaves me almost in a funk.  It’s so clear in these situations that the feeling of bother has to do with the meaning I’m making of my experiences because it seems only loosely related to the experiences themselves.  That’s the noise or chatter.

Let me give an example. Like many people this time of year, I caught a nasty cold this week.  Although I’ve felt miserable physically, I’ve actually been pretty productive and in a decent mood. In the past, not only would I have been sick, but I also would have been in a bad mood. And my bad mood would have “infected” the people around me.

I asked myself what’s different and the only thing I can discern is that the noise or chatter has less of a hold on me.  I used to tell myself things like “I don’t deserve this,” “I’m too busy to be sick,” “I can’t afford to be sick when I have a business trip coming up.” And those thoughts and fears, more than the physical illness, would put me in a bad mood.

This time, largely because of work I’ve been doing over the past year to increase my awareness of the link between thoughts and feelings, I didn’t have that kind of noise surrounding the illness. I do have an upcoming business trip but instead of catastrophizing about how bad it all is, I chose to focus on getting as well as possible before the trip. So much less energy invested in my thoughts about the illness, so much more directed to getting well.

Okay, so maybe some people reading this are thinking, “Boy, is she neurotic!” That’s the risk I take when I share these kinds of reflections. But I’ve coached enough people who are as much a victim of bother as I was (and sometimes still am) to know that this is a topic worth surfacing and exploring more fully.

Wouldn’t you like to be more productive, more positive? How is the noise or chatter in your mind working for you in that regard?